Miss USA winner from Friendswood dismisses allegations that pageant was rigged in her favor

Some contestants say the competition was rigged

The Miss USA competition was allegedly rigged.

“It’s just very unfortunate, all the allegations are swirling around the pageant right now,” said professional interview coach J.J. Smith.

Smith is also the owner of WinnerViews Pageant Consultation. He attended the Miss USA pageant in Reno, Nevada on Oct. 3 and said he noticed a break of custom on stage when Miss Texas USA R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned the new Miss USA.

“Generally, when girls are crowned with whatever title they win, all of the other contestants, although they realize they lost the title, they surround the girl and congratulate her,” Smith said. “That was not the case this year. I saw just a mass exodus of the contestants that did not win. They basically left the stage.”

Following Gabriel’s win, allegations of favoritism toward the Filipino American from Friendswood began to swirl.

According to NBC News, more than a dozen contestants claim the pageant was rigged and that Gabriel and her coaches were given opportunities other contestants were not, such as being allowed to do a different on-stage walking pattern.

“There were some things behind the scenes, a photo shoot in Cancun that was sponsored by not only a sponsor for the Miss Texas USA pageant but that same sponsor was a Miss USA sponsor,” Smith added.

Gabriel addressed the allegations on KPRC 2′s Houston Life last week.

“I want to share the message that even though there might be haters, or kind of a dark cloud, to never let that dim my light or my shine. Just keep moving forward,” Gabriel said.

In a statement issued to KPRC 2 Wednesday, Gabriel stated:

“The current allegations are based on perception and not the truth. I would never want to enter a competition that was rigged. I know all of the contestants worked really hard to prepare, and I don’t want these allegations to overshadow the accomplishments of all the women who participated in this year’s Miss USA competition. At this time, I am currently training for Miss Universe and all of the opportunities that the Miss USA Organization will provide, while expanding on my personal platform for sustainable fashion and advocating for charity partners Best Buddies and Smile Train.”

Smith said in his opinion, the pageant appeared to have a lot of Texas connections.

“I believe it’s difficult to rig a pageant, but I do believe that perhaps just the way it seems, the appearance of it seems like there were a lot of people from Texas involved in the pageant,” he said. “The makeup artists were from Texas. The photographer was from Texas. Of course, Crystle was a former Miss Texas USA as well and won Miss USA.”

Miss Universe Organization has suspended Crystle Stewart, the head of Miss USA while it investigates. Stewart owns Miss Academy, which is also entangled in the allegations.

“The Miss Academy that Crystle owns of course is also here and Houston, Texas-based and was also a Miss USA sponsor for prize packages offered,” Smith added.

Smith is also a longtime friend of Stewart.

“She’s always been very well regarded in the industry and so it’s unfortunate to have a black mark placed on your reputation that may or may not be true. I do know Crystle as being a very fair and unbiased woman with the utmost integrity and so I would actually defend Crystle,” he said.

KPRC 2 reached out to Stewart for comment but did not hear back.